Life Coaching vs Therapy
The facts and viewpoints presented in Mindy Blumenfeld’s article on life coaching vs. therapy were sound, but the title was distracting, as it screamed “Opinion! Never ever! Non-discussion!” I had to delete that from my mind in order to go back and actually concentrate on the discussion presented.
As someone who goes to both therapy and coaching, and as someone who is trained as a coach (a very helpful skill I use in my day-to-day life, although I do not practice professionally), I feel I am qualified to speak. Clients have every right to choose where to seek help and for what. It is true that there are differences between the two, the fact that one has a license and one does not, should not result in putting down, disregarding or dismissing the efficacy of either.
Mindy invites coaches to reply, as well as therapists who are also coaches. This, to me, highlights the fact that most therapists are not coaches and that coaches generally do what therapists do not do. Obviously. Any time you specialize, it means you've invested focus, energy and time in a particular area that you then become the maven on. A dating coach is going to be way more experienced and helpful to people in shidduchim, for example, than a therapist who went through lots of training but has her psychology-based focus and different level of experience based on her clientele. So aside from the licensure factor, coaches serve a role and are different than therapists in ways that are either positive or just plain an is. In the same way that I don’t want to go a nurse if I can go to a doctor, I don’t want to go to a doctor if it’s the nurse I want. There’s a reason I hire a coach as well as a therapist: I gain different things from each of them.
I choose my professionals on an individual basis, not based on general concepts about their fields. I tried many, many therapists before I found the right one. I didn’t give up on therapy because therapy was no good; I gave up on the lousy therapists because they were lousy. Same with the coaching. In other words, I respect the points Mindy brought up about the fields in general, but it’s the individuals within each field that I base my decisions upon in this particular area. And personally, since it hasn’t come up as an issue in a practical sense, I am curious to know how the whole licensure issue can play out in a detrimental way with a life coach who’s ethical and responsible. I have not yet had an issue with mine and she knows quite well where her role as a coach begins and ends.
A Fan of my All-Star Therapist and Coach
Mindy Blumfeld raises some very interesting and important points in her article contrasting coaching with therapy, and she does a great service to a consumer debating where to go for help.
However, I strongly believe that a personal moral code is far more important than any external code of ethics or law can impose, particularly when the work is done in private, with one client who may not know what is appropriate or not.
Mindy should be commended for the ongoing peer supervision that she does, but she does it out of a sense of ethics, versus being forced to do so by law.
More importantly for us, as Yidden, is the fact that the same governing bodies that require supervision, limit therapists to their scope of practice, i.e. demand that a therapist keep her own spiritual and religious beliefs out of the treatment.
This is an area where coaching is preferable to therapy because it allows us to use Yiddishkeit to achieve healing. Integrating our mental, spiritual and emotional worlds is the surest path to mental health, but by law, licensed therapists cannot directly practice in this way. This is a fact that should not be ignored.
I look forward to the day when the organization Neshama is up and running, when "non-professional professionals" will be able to support each other and their clients in a concrete way.
In the meantime, thank you for bringing these important topics up for discussion.
Since therapy and self-development is high on my list of values, I find that Mindy Blumenfeld’s articles are usually among the first I’ll read when I get my Binah.
I found myself mentoring many women, especially in their marriage, and my passion grew as the woman reported nice feedback and I saw them grow in their relationships, baruch Hashem. Obviously, I saw myself stuck with some clients and wanted to expand my knowledge as well as gain more tools. I looked into different coaching programs and as a long-time student of Dina Friedman, I decided to take her training to become certified as a Mastery Coach.
In one of our first sessions, Dina trained us how to determine when a client is in need of therapy rather than coaching. Coaching is meant for someone who is ready to move forward from the present to future goals. Therapy is based on healing the past.
Dina is teaching us a variety of processes that can help clients heal past trauma, break negative default patterns and replace them with preferred states, help the client identify negative beliefs, etc… Our job as a coach is to empower the client to help herself. If, after offering these tools and working with a client, she is not able to hold herself, then therapy is in place. As far as the relationship with the coach goes, that differs from coach to coach. I do not offer my clients occasional 15 min consults, but encourage them to deal with situations with the tools they have so far, teach them how to trust their intuition and do their best, and then discuss it in the next session if needed.
I agree that a coach has not spent so many years in training and supervision, but if she is talented and has good intuition and interpersonal skills, has healthy boundaries, respects privacy, and is constantly upgrading her knowledge in the field, she can be a great go-to person when seeking to move forward in life. You can have years of training and have many certificates on your wall, but if you are lacking the above, that can mean nothing! The downside of a skilled therapist as with years of training and thousands of hours of supervised session, is that they are usually very pricy and can exhaust your budget before you even start feeling any relief in the situation.
You can have a bad therapist with years of learning, and a great coach with skill and talent.
Do your research before you pick either one!
I feel compelled only because my wife came running over to me on shabbos with your article in hand titled 'Life coaching? Not on your life!' and being that I am a life coach, she thought this would be good beef.
But guess what? Not only am i pretty sure my wife did not read the article, nor is she herself sure what lief coaching is about, and she refuses to talk to me about it lest i do something psychological to her, there was absolutely NO BEEF in that article.
I was actually very impressed and into the article. I love how one of your first sentences was that someone who needs therapy should not be going to a life coach. That's 100% correct! And yes, possibly some people might let themselves go to a coach over a therapist because of the stigma, but I would not work with someone who needs therapy. In fact, if I see pretty clearly my client needs therapy, I direct them to one. I am more them happy to work with them ALONGSIDE their therapist but in no way is a life coach replacing a therapist.
It seems you did your research well, that indeed a life coach focuses on goals and creating the future, while a therapists job is to work on old hurts and wounds from the past which are still creeping up in current life.
I myself have experienced both first hand and i know the tremendous benefits of both. Each have very important roles. But it's a mistake to think that they are in competition or that they are addressing the same crowd. They are not, as you clearly stated.
I myself have just recently spoken to many of the local rabbanim where i live to let them know the difference between a life coach and a therapists, because for some reason the uneducated person seems to confuse them, when in reality there is no comparison.
I do think that a life coach can deal with over 50% of the people who go to therapy by default, as speaking with local therapists has showed me, but it is very important for people to understand the distinction between them. So thank you again for your article.
It's funny, someone asked me, as a life coach, if i am certified. I LOVE that question because it's such a joke. You don't NEED any certification to life coach, and most certifications are a joke and you can get them in your sleep. Don't find comfort in a life coached certification. If you need real help, seek a therapist.
One last side note though, you mentioned in your article there is no legal grounds for life coaching, when in actuality there is something called the ICF, International Coaching Federation. My certification, which again I acknowledge means nothing, is under the ICF so that there is at least SOME SORT of regulation so that people don't go calling themselves life coaches without having any idea of what there doing, and possibly messing with a therapists job.
It would be interesting to see if you got any hate mail from coaches about your article. I'm not sure what there is to argue about.
All the Best, A Life Coach
Next week: My response
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